A Call to Halt the Nuclear Arms Race

1982 Church of the Brethren Statement

Action of 1982 Annual Conference

Betty Ann Cherry, Standing Committee delegate from Middle Pennsylvania, presented the recommendation from Standing Committee that the three queries, Nuclear Disarmament, Statement of Nuclear Weapons Freeze, and Statement on Call to Halt the Nuclear Arms Race, be addressed in a single answer. The delegate body adopted the recommendation for the single answer:

A race in the research, development, production, and deployment of weapons of mass destruction, both nuclear and conventional, is a daily fact of life (or death) for us. For decades priority has been given to allocating a major proportion of our country’s resources and technical and scientific expertise to an arms race that has produced fear, suspicion, and terror rather than a sense of wellbeing and national security.

Some military and administration spokespersons no longer consider nuclear war unthinkable, but possible, capable of being limited, and winnable. Such an apparent policy shift, therefore, makes nuclear war more likely. Fueled by what is perceived to be a threat by a superior Soviet military capacity, the current administration proposes an expenditure of $1.5 trillion over the next five years in an unprecedented peacetime buildup of nuclear and conventional forces. This escalation confronts us not only with the possibility of nuclear war, but also the likelihood of devastating economic consequences. Nuclear capability and the real possibility of nuclear war represent an immediate threat of destruction of all human life on this planet.

Against these preparations for nuclear and conventional warfare, the Church of the Brethren again raises its voice. Since its inception the church has understood the biblical message as contrary to the destructive, life denying, realities of war. The position of the Church of the Brethren is that all war is sin and contrary to the will of God and we confirm that position. We seek to work with other Christians and all persons who desire to abolish war as a means of resolving difference. The church has consistently spoken and continues to speak against the production and use of nuclear weapons. We have called upon our government to “dismantle its nuclear arsenal, pledge not to use nuclear weapons, refuse to sell nuclear fuels and technology to any state not agreeing to the Non-Proliferation Treaty and inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency, work tirelessly for a comprehensive Test Ban Treaty,(1) take unilateral disarmament initiatives as a way of breaking the current stalemate, and strengthen global institutions that facilitate nonviolent means of conflict resolution and the process of disarmament.”(2)

Even as we reaffirm these positions, we also recognize that the U.S., while acknowledged as a leader in the world with respect to ideals and morals, nonetheless has stockpiled tens of thousands megatons in terms of TNT nuclear destruction force. We have previously called for the ratification of the SALT II treaty as a step in the process toward meaningful disarmament. Although the treaty is important as an example of international negotiations on arms control, it is understood that it will not decrease by one single bomb the U.S. stockpiles of these hellish instruments. It is therefore imperative that we work toward the goal of general and complete disarmament.

As a first and immediate step toward this goal, we, the 1982 Church of the Brethren Annual Conference, now join other concerned churches and persons supporting the following proposal for a mutual US-Soviet nuclear weapons freeze: “To improve national and international security, the United States and the Soviet Union should stop the nuclear arms race. Specifically they should adopt a mutual freeze on the testing, production, and deployment of nuclear weapons and of missiles and new aircraft designed primarily to deliver nuclear weapons. This is an essential verifiable first step towards lessening the risk of nuclear war and reducing the nuclear arsenals.”(3)

The accomplishment of a mutual freeze on the part of the United States and the Soviet Union would be only a first approach to reaching the goal of general and complete disarmament. We would call upon our government to initiate the next step by an earnest demonstration of willingness to work toward nuclear arms reduction. We therefore would urge upon our elected officials that our government unilaterally reduce Defense Department expenditures for the next fiscal year by ten percent, and, at the same time direct that the nuclear weapons stockpile of the United States be reduced by ten percent.

Furthermore, we encourage our General Board, districts, congregations, and members who have not already done so to . . .

—endorse the Nuclear Weapons Freeze,

—obtain signatures on nuclear freeze petitions,

—contact their Congresspersons to urge reduction in Defense Department expenditures and nuclear stockpiles,

—contact appropriate government agencies at local, state, and federal levels to express their concern,

—initiate and co-sponsor community-wide efforts to discuss and educate about nuclear weapons issues,

—place ads in local newspapers and find other ways of using the local media for nuclear disarmament concerns, and

—seek other ways to combat nuclear arms race.

Related Annual Conference and General Board policy statements and resolutions:

1.) The Church’s Responsibility for Justice and Nonviolence, Annual Conference 1977.

The Church of the Brethren and War, Annual Conference, revised 1970

2.) Resolutions on Disarmament, General Board 1978

Statement on the International Situation, General Board 1961

Resolution on Disarmament, General Board 1959

Resolution on Disarmament, General Board 1958

Statement on Modern Weapons, General Board 1955

The Time So Urgent: Threats to Peace, Annual Conference 1980

3.) Call to Halt the Nuclear Arms Race, Nuclear Weapons Freeze, 251 Harvard St., Brookline, MA 02146.